An Interview with Cynthia Spencer

I’ve been lucky to chat with a lot of knit and crochet designers throughout the indie design gift-a-long, today I am sharing an interview with Cynthia Spencer of Really Clear you can find all of her patterns on ravelry too.

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What do you think is the biggest influence on your design process?

It’s almost a cliché, but Elizabeth Zimmermann. Actually, come to think of it, she was a confirmation almost as much as an influence. I certainly gained a great deal of technique from reading her books. But I also gained emotional support: I was relieved that I was allowed to be that way! There are so many ways to accomplish knitting, it doesn’t have to be hard, and you don’t have to take yourself seriously. For a few years, I taught a “Zimmermannia” class at Stitch Your Art Out, a local yarn and quilting shop that I co-own near State College, PA, and we all had an incredible amount of fun making her things.

I think that the one area that I diverge from her on is fit. She figured that whatever she was making would fit someone or another, but I am fanatic about it. This is purely because I’m selfish and want to wear my stuff! I have been called the gauge witch—but it doesn’t stop there. I make all my customers check fit as they go for everything they make.

Which leads to the real answer to your question: I have to say that by far the biggest influence on my design process is the customers in my yarn shop. They are busy people, and they want their patterns to work, to fit, not to be a struggle to think through (and that means clarity, no mistakes, and an easy-to-follow construction for a tired brain after a long day of work).

I try hard to make my patterns work for them. Now each year instead of a Zimmermannia class, I have a Really Clear class. It’s been such fun seeing everyone enjoy making my designs! We meet once a month and have a blast. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for their support.

I’m the most heartened when people make one of my patterns for everyone in their family. That’s when I’m sure it’s not a “pity knit”!

How many WIP’s do you currently have?

Conservatively about 20. But to avoid mental overload, I generally work on no more than 3 things at a time. When one item gets finished, something else goes into the rotation. I try to have one movie- or car-knitting project (something I can knit on without having to look at my hands), one more difficult project to make life interesting, and one lightweight, carry-with-me project for restaurants or other kinds of waiting.

Do you have a favourite yarn or fibre that you like to knit with?

It always comes back to wool. I actually love the more rustic wools, such as Kureyon or Harrisville Highland. (In fact, I love those two wools put together.) Like everyone else, I turn to Madelinetosh over and over. Their colors are so beautiful. And Cascade also has some of the best colors in the industry.

I am a certified color consultant for the company Color Me Beautiful, and that makes it easy to see that both fiber and color are equally important to me!

If you could knit/crochet only one item type what would it be?

Without a doubt, sweaters. It doesn’t yet show in my pattern line, but I am a sweater fanatic. The reason that it doesn’t show is that I am so uncompromising about fit. I am working hard on ways to describe sweater fit the same way in a pattern as when I teach sweater classes. I’m just about there on a new sweater pattern. I’m so excited about it! You’ll probably see it in January.

My favourite design of yours is definitely Jordi, it’s a great shape; which one is your favourite and why?

Oh thank you! That was a fun knit! That was a pattern with a mind of its own. It was supposed to be a shawl as I was designing it, but it turned itself into a poncho as I was putting it together. Just last week I finished a new Jordi for myself out of Zauberball. It has panels of all the same length. It was a lot of knitting, but totally worth it. I absolutely love it!

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My personal favorite, although it’s not flashy, is my Make a Million Shawl. I truly have made many of them! It is my perfect answer to having yarn that I’m not sure what to do with, in a grab-and-go project. I knit wherever I go, so that feature is important to me. I like the crescent shape, and I like the little increase line down the center back. I spent hours and hours swatching and perfecting small details about how to increase in that shawl.

 Which one of your patterns would make a great gift?

I’ll list the ones that my customers have made the most gifts from and that are the quickest to knit: Teegan, the Miyuki cowl, the Quick-Knit Hat for guys (boring for the knitter, but they love it!), Gatsby, Button Pusher, Tangled Pumpkin Vines, Maria and Maude (the cowl in that pattern), Lindsay’s Perfect Mitts, and Pop-Top Mittens. Lots of people have given my Toe-Up Socks, but usually those are not for rushed gifts—which is the point we’re at right now! [Pictured is the Miyuki Cowl.]

My business partner says that my super power is being practical. I think that makes my patterns work well in general for gift knitting.

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Without giving too much away, are you working on any new designs at the moment?

I never stop! I have four hats in the works, one of which is a holiday hat that I’ll publish any second now (it’s at the tech editor), a pretty poncho, mittens, a cowl, a redo of a scarf, and the sweater I mentioned earlier. I also have an idea for a new sweater based on one of my abstract paintings. You’ll probably see that in 2016! I need to keep everyone busy in the next Really Clear Year, so I will have patterns coming out all year long.

And finally what will you be working on during the GAL?

I try not to put too much pressure on myself for knitted gifts since all year long I have a lot of deadline pressure at work to knit. (It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!) Let’s just say that my Quick-Knit Hat makes a terrific guy present, and that they are unlikely to read this interview.

Thank you for talking with me Cynthia

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Indie Design Gift-a-Long: My Favourite Shawls, Scarfs and Cowls

The discount period may be over now for the GAL, but the knit-a-long doesn’t end until the 31st of December so I’m still picking out loads of great patterns.

I absolutely love shawls and scarfs so choosing just a few favourites is really really difficult but here they are, I’ve had to be extremely strict with myself and not post about a hundred pictures, but these few are the ones that really caught my eye (click on the pictures to go to the pattern page)

When the flowers bloom: twisted stitches and beads, whats not to love! fingering/4ply

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Ink ripples: beyond my basic crochet skills, but I love it, laceweight

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Little fish, big fish: Double knit cowl, extra warm and super cute, worsted or fingering/4ply

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Radiance Shawl: simple yet effective, laceweight

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Malva: small and sweet, laceweight

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Pendula: a whole lot of holes! sport/5ply

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Starlet stole: an interesting combination of cables and lace, sport/5ply

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Indie Gift-a-Long: Last discount day

The 25% discount being offered by all of the designers taking part in the GAL ends at 11.59pm US EST tonight so there’s still time to get one of my patterns at a bargain price.

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Even though the discount ends today there is still loads of fun stuff going on over in the GAL thread on Ravelry, with chances to win patterns and yarn and lots of other lovely things. The light is terrible here at the moment, as soon as it improves I’ll take a picture of my progress on my Jollyoly hat, I love how it looks so far, back to knitting!

An Interview with Christina Loman

As part of the Indie Gift-a-Long I get to chat with some great designers, today it is Christina Loman, you can see all of her designs on ravelry,  (2o of them are eligible for the GAL 25% discount) and she blogs at feel good knitting.  Would you like to win one of Christina’s patterns? She has very kindly offered one free pattern, just like or comment on this post to be in with a chance to win!

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What do you think is the biggest influence on your design process?

I tend to design things I want to wear. Most of my designs start as a frustration with something I have in my mind that I can’t find in stores or on Ravelry. I think that’s part of why I do so much of my designing independently – I want what I have in my mind and I want it now!

How many WIP’s do you currently have?

Just one. I’m on a tight deadline for a non-indie pattern right now. Normally though, I like to have a big WIP and a portable WIP going, and possibly an extra mindless one too.

Do you have a favourite yarn or fibre that you like to knit with?

I definitely have a soft spot for alpaca, and silk as well. No particular brand that calls to me though. There are so many good ones to play with; how could I limit myself?!

If you could knit/crochet only one item type what would it be?

Sweaters. Absolutely, no hesitation. I can never have enough sweaters.

My favourite design of yours is definitely Catch, which one is your favourite and why?

I think Swept Away is the prettiest and most rewarding pattern I’ve worked on, but I wear Potomac the most. I love the fit, I love the yarn, and I love the fact that it reminds me of my roots every time I wear it – the Potomac River is less than 5 miles from my house.

Which one of your patterns would make a great gift?

The Smitten Glittens are a fast and useful knit, which I think makes them good for gifts. Less likely to be surprise heartbreak there. But I think Bâttonage is very quick and stylish too.

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(without giving too much away) are you working on any new designs at the moment?

I have a collection of designs coming out through a great alpaca-focused company in St. Louis in the coming months. I’ve been working on it since July and it’s making me crazy not to be able to share!

And finally what will you be working on during the GAL?

I’m hoping to find a good pair of fingerless mitts on the Pinterest boards, but I’m definitely keeping my options open. I don’t tend to deliberately seek out holiday projects, but if I find one that strikes my fancy and won’t make me sad if it’s not well-received, I definitely go for it!

Thank you Christina for talking with me, I shall keep an eye out for your new designs, I love alpaca!

 

Indie Design Gift-a-Long: My Favourite Hats

The gift-a-long has given me the excuse for some selfish knitting, for a change I am going to knit something for myself! I’ve decided that to start with I’m going to make myself a hat, I spent absolutely ages looking through the pinterest boards, but I’ve picked out a few that I really like (if you click on the pic it will take you to the pattern page)

Jollyoly: I love the slouchiness, sport/5ply

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Kotiya: a very fun looking hat, worsted weight

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Cloudberry Beret: super bulky and there’s a matching scarf too

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Kensington: another beret this time in worsted weight

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Huntley: man appropriate, worsted weight

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I’ve decided that I am going to start with Jollyoly, then perhaps a beret, I may make blokey a Huntley too

 

Indie Designer Gift-a-Long: My Patterns

As I mentioned in my slightly overexcited post yesterday I am taking part in the gift-a-long over on ravelry, you can get a 25% discount on all of my patterns listed below any time between 8pm EST today and 11.59pm EST on November the 21st, for anyone in the UK that start time is 1am on Friday. To get your discount click on any of the pictures and then use the coupon code ‘giftalong2014’ happy knitting!

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Indie Designer Gift-a-Long: starting tomorrow!

So have you heard about the Indie Designer gift-a-long over on Ravelry? It’s a 2 month long KAL / CAL using patterns from 293 independent knit and crochet designer from 21 different countries around the world. And the best thing is that each of these designers are offering from 4 to 20 patterns with a 25% discount for the next 9 days, that’s a total of 3,822 discounted patterns.

You can join the gift-a-long group over on ravelry where there are 8 different knit/crochet -a- longs to participate in and there is also going to be lots of fun and games too, oh and lots of prizes! Thanks to 80skeins all this information can be seen on this lovely infographic:

I’ll be blogging about all the great stuff throughout the gift-a-long, looking at some of my favourite patterns available and chatting to some of the designers too. You can also follow along on twitter with the hashtag #giftalong2014, I’m on twitter @verilyknits say hi!

As you’ve probably guessed I’m one of the knit designers taking part, I’ll write a bit more about what patterns I’m offering tomorrow, but if you’d like to see them they’re all listed here